Summertime in the Belgrades
July 6 – 12
Planning to Work on Your Camp Road or Driveway?
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by Dale Finseth
It's getting to be that time of the season when you plan work on your driveway or your road association road. As part of our focus on nonpoint source pollution, gravel roads are this week's topic.
In rural Maine we frequently need to travel on and are often responsible for a gravel camp road or our own gravel driveway. Those road surfaces frequently collect and direct runoff into our lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands. Unlike public roadways, you or your road association are directly responsible for their impact on water quality.
Much of our conservation work and the work of various Youth Conservation Corps, road associations, and watershed groups focuses on gravel road work. Gravel road erosion is a major source of sediment into our lakes. That sediment carries phosphorus in addition to other toxins like road salt, oil and the like.
Gravel roads and their associated ditches can also concentrate the stormwater runoff from adjacent properties. Improving the way those gravel roads function is an excellent way to help protect water quality.
Given all the use those roads get during the summer, an improved road both costs less money over time and makes for a less destructive "mud season." Roads that did NOT receive a "spring upgrade" may exhibit problems. Potholes may appear, ruts may develop in the tire lanes, and ditches may NOT be directing runoff into the woods and other vegetated areas. Instead, the roadway, culverts, and ditches are all working together and directing stormwater and the sediment into the lake.
The Kennebec SWCD focuses on Gravel Road Management/Maintenance Plans to provide landowners a better understanding of how their roads impact water quality and how to manage its maintenance to minimize that impact. A good road management plan provides the landowners with information to better budget the resources they devote to their roadway. Those resources include the dues paid by landowners and the volunteer or contractor work to maintain it. A better maintained road can save a property from damage caused by stormwater leaving the roadway and damaging adjacent property. It is important for people to better understand how the road "works."
The feedback is good from people about road plans written in the past few years. People appreciate the advantage of having a long-range plan to protect their investment already made in their roadway and make plans for the future. The road management plan is usually for the "shared" road, i.e. the responsibility of all the property owners.
But, many of the recommendations and best management practices can be modified to help the individual camp owner better manage their own driveway. We do NOT want to see these gravel roads simply become a means to transfer silt and phosphorus to our waterways. Intercepting that stormwater is an excellent way to help protect water quality.
…And with the improved attention to long term maintenance people can expect better long-term water quality. Definitely a "win, win" situation.
Conservation Too columns are written by staff at by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, call Dale Finseth at